Trident D5 Missile Reaches 150 Successful Test Flights

The U.S. Navy’s Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile, built by Lockheed Martin, has achieved 150 successful test flights, setting a new reliability record for large ballistic missiles, the company announced in a June 4 release.

The Navy launched two unarmed missiles June 2 in the Atlantic Ocean from a submerged Ohio-class submarine, marking the 149th and 150th successful test flights of the missile since design completion in 1989. The test flights were part of a demonstration and shakedown operation, which the Navy uses to certify a submarine for deployment following an overhaul. The missiles were converted into test configurations with kits containing range safety devices and flight telemetry instrumentation.

The operation included the first flight of two modernized avionics subsystems that control key missile functions during flight. The subsystems were updated under the D5 Life Extension program, which incorporates current technologies into the missile’s electronics to cost-effectively prolong the service life of the reliable D5 missile design on current and next-generation submarine platforms.

“The success of this Life Extension flight is a tribute to the dedication and innovation of the entire government and industry team,” said Doug White, Fleet Ballistic Missile programs vice president, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. “In partnership with Navy Strategic Systems Programs, we set the bar high to provide a credible, reliable and affordable sea-based strategic deterrent for the nation.”

First deployed in 1990, the D5 missile is currently aboard U.S. Navy Ohio-class and U.K. Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines. The three-stage, solid-propellant, inertial-guided missile can travel a nominal range of 4,000 nautical miles and carries independently targeted reentry bodies.

Lockheed Martin has been the Navy’s strategic missile prime contractor since 1955. The company also performs program management and engineering services for the Royal Navy under the Polaris Sales Agreement.

Hail to the Deep: A Strategy for Submarines

IT’S EASY to forget the virtues of submarines, which lurk beneath not only the waters but also the consciousness of most Americans. They aren’t as iconic as fighter jets or as visceral as tanks. But they can deny a stronger enemy navy control of important waters. Afterward they can exercise command of the sea, blockading or projecting power onto enemy shores with impunity. These elusive warships, in other words, pack an outsized punch.

Just ask Eugene Fluckey. Nicknamed “Lucky Fluckey,” the World War II submarine commander sent the most enemy tonnage to the ocean’s bottom of any skipper in the Pacific. Sinking Japanese tankers, freighters and other merchantmen dismembered a Japanese Empire reliant on sea transport. And raiding shipping was an option of first resort for Washington. U.S. Pacific Fleet submarines were able to start attacking Japanese shipping while American battleships were still burning in Pearl Harbor—long before the U.S. Navy surface fleet penetrated western Pacific waters. That’s what naval specialists call “sea denial.” It’s a strategy for hindering or preventing stronger adversaries from using certain nautical expanses.

Submarine operations spread progressively westward as the navy seized Pacific islands where forward bases could be built. Nearby bases let U.S. submariners establish a near-constant presence in Asian seas, sinking even more merchant shipping while pummeling the Imperial Japanese Navy from below. As the tide turned in the Pacific, undersea warfare made an indispensable contribution to American “command of the sea,” meaning near-total control of important sea areas.

And late in the war, Fluckey’s boat USS Barb took the fight directly to Japan, engaging in gun duels against Japanese shore sites. A landing party even went ashore to blow up a train. Such theatrics aside, Harvard professor Stephen Rosen maintains that a submarine blockade of Japan could have compelled Tokyo to surrender—even had President Harry Truman declined to order the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s high praise for these humble-looking ships of war.

Sea denial, sea command, the exploitation of command: submarine operations span the range of naval missions. Yet despite a century’s proof of submarines’ efficacy, from World War I in the Atlantic to the competition with China today, the classics of sea-power theory—the closest thing seafarers have to a how-to manual of naval combat—are puzzlingly silent on how to employ them in wartime or peacetime. The classics concentrate overwhelmingly on surface warfare, scanting undersea combat. It is high time to bring submarines into the canon.

AS AMERICAN submariners like to boast, some ships are built to submerge while others are made to submerge—once! There’s truth to that jest. First, these are warships that operate in three, not two, dimensions. In this sense they resemble combat aircraft, which can overfly surface fleets at altitudes of their choice. Adding that z-axis to submarines’ maneuvering space lets them operate not just near but also within the defensive perimeters around enemy formations. Think about the German U-boat lurking underneath a U.S. Navy destroyer in the World War II film The Enemy Below.

Surface vessels navigate across what amounts to a featureless plain, whereas submarines roam within a vast, three-dimensional column of water. This flexibility opens up tactical and operational vistas for submarine skippers that are unavailable to their surface brethren, whose ships lumber around in (mostly) plain sight. On the other hand, sub crews have to contend with terrain when operating in shallow water. Undersea warfare resembles land warfare in that sense. Soldiers work around mountains, valleys and defiles. Submariners must take account of the sea floor’s uneven if not shifting topography—in the near-shore environment in particular. Second, concealment is a submarine’s chief method of defense. Surface-ship designers assume adversaries can detect, target and attack men-of-war plying the ocean’s surface. Such vessels must be stoutly built to absorb hits from enemy missiles or gunfire. They also boast elaborate active defenses—radar, antiaircraft and antiship missiles, electronic warfare—to ward off assault. The overriding assumption: ships exposed to enemy sensors will take hits.

By contrast, submariners go to extravagant lengths to hide. Loath to give away their presence—and thereby compromise their defenses—submariners typically operate their sonar sets in “passive” mode. They listen for telltale sounds emanating from enemy boats. Once they hear another ship’s engineering plant or other noise, they can identify, track and target it. This acoustic cat-and-mouse game works both ways. Running silent helps a boat evade detection. Slowing to a crawl quiets noise from the propulsion machinery.

Third, submarines are loners for the most part. Surface engagements are about concentrating firepower at decisive places on the map to overwhelm an opponent. Submarine warfare is about individual units hunting for action. Surface ships generally steam in concentric formations centered around “high-value units” such as aircraft carriers or amphibious transports. Outlying picket ships guard the high-value unit against surface, aerial or subsurface assault. A layered defense constitutes the carrier’s best chance of survival in a contested environment. Once in range, the formation projects offensive firepower against a hostile fleet or onto hostile shores.

Is America Building the Wrong Kind of Submarine?

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive." --C.S. Lewis When it comes to military technology -- and military naval technology in particular -- most people would probably agree that "the future is nuclear." The most advanced aircraft carriers in the world are American, and they're all nuclear-powered. The fastest, most powerful submarines are nuke boats built by American defense contractors General Dynamics (NYSE: GD ) and Huntington Ingalls (NYSE: HII ) as well.

Follow the leader

The U.S. Navy currently possesses 72 active submarines -- all nuclear-powered. Following America's example, navies from Russia to France to England to even China and India have opted to add nuclear-powered submarines to their fleets. And why wouldn't they? Doesn't nuclear offer "progress" over previous generations of diesel-electric powered submarines?

You'd think so. But as C.S. Lewis pointed out, sometimes to progress, you have to admit to having made a mistake, reverse course, and get back on the right track. More and more often these days, foreign navies are coming to the conclusion that nuclear-powered submarines were the wrong way to go -- and believe it or not, that diesel is actually "the future."

To get ahead, first go Down Under

Take Australia for instance. Earlier this month, Australia signed an agreement with Japan whereby the two nations will begin working together to develop a new class of stealth submarines -- powered by diesel-electric engines.

Using the same "air-independent propulsion" (AIP) diesel-electric systems developed by Japan for use in its Soryu-class submarines, Australia aims to replace its current fleet of six aging Collins-class subs with a round dozen based on a new design. Larger than the current Collins-class boats, Australia's new subs will be capable of carrying everything from cruise missiles to unmanned underwater vehicles to special operations troops. According to, this will permit "a major regional enhancement of Australia's capabilities" and deployment "into South China Sea and beyond."

Australia hopes to have the new boats in the water by 2030 and has budgeted up to $33 billion for the project, which it calls "Project Sea 1000."

$33 billion? That's a lot of money

Yes, it is. Luckily for Australia, Project Sea 1000 may end up costing only a fraction of the budgeted sum. You see, it costs American taxpayers about $2.7 billion to have General Dynamics or Huntington Ingalls build us a Virginia-class nuclear fast-attack submarine. Building a dozen of them would yield a price tag of $32.4 billion -- about what Australia had braced itself to pay. But Japan's Soryu-class subs, upon which Australia may base its new boats, cost only $540 million apiece to produce -- just 20% the cost of a new nuke boat. At 3,000 tons displacement, the Soryus are about half the size of a Virginia-class sub -- so pound-for-pound, Australia's still getting a good deal.

A good deal for U.S., too?

Is this something the U.S. should try to get in on? Over at the Pentagon, this is a question that's being asked more and more often. As budgets come under pressure, the prospect of replacing a few of our older nuke boats with modern diesel-electrics that cost five times less has some appeal. This is especially true among Navy strategists who argue diesel-electric boats aren't just cheaper than nukes. When equipped with an AIP engine, diesel-electrics can outperform their nuclear cousins in stealthy movement, are particularly hard to detect (and kill) in shallow coastal waters (such as you'll find off the coasts of Korea, China, and Iran for example), and with improvements in range, can now travel silently and underwater for weeks at a time.

The upshot for investors

Arguments like these make a lot of sense to Navy tacticians. They make a lot of sense for taxpayers concerned over the burgeoning size of the U.S. defense budget -- and they should make sense for investors as well.

America hasn't built a new diesel-electric submarine for its fleet in 55 years -- and a lot of things can change over a half century. Over that time, America's Nuclear Navy has become wedded to the idea that "nuclear is better," but globally, defense market analysts at AMI International say there's a market for about 300 new diesel-electric submarines waiting to be built over the next 20 years -- 100 of them in the Asian and Pacific markets alone. At $540 million a pop, that's a $162 billion opportunity.

That's a lot of money for U.S. submakers General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls to be leaving on the table -- waiting to be scooped up by companies like ThyssenKrupp, DCNS, and Mitsubishi Heavy, which do build diesel-electrics. And that's not even counting the billions that could be earned building diesel-electrics for the U.S. Navy, should it decide to walk back its commitment to nuclear. Once upon a time, America was pretty good at building diesel-electric boats. For the sake of the taxpayers, and for the sake of the shareholders of these companies, maybe we should think about getting good at it again.

Hunted or hunter: Life on submarine proves exciting

Veteran Tim Moore and his submarine crew chased the enemy around the world. Moore now lives in Sun City West. Tim Moore and his fellow submarine crew members chased the enemy around the world — and vice versa — while in the Navy. And he’d do it over again in a heartbeat.

“There were times it was very exciting, when there were close encounters with your adversaries,” Moore said of the fast-attack submarine’s job to seek out enemy subs, “always on the hunt and always being hunted, which provides for some excitement.” Moore, 72, of Glendale said it was interesting, “especially being in the submarine service. Some of the things that we did, that nobody else did.”

After graduating from Washington High School in Phoenix, he joined the Navy and was a Second Class Radioman.

Moore was on active duty from 1961 to 1965 in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“At that time I didn’t have any idea how serious it was. I knew we were out there looking for the Russians who were trying to get missiles into Cuba, but I didn’t realize until years later when I saw documentaries, how close we were to an all-out nuclear war.” “It’s kind of scary when you think about it; but when you’re a kid 18 or 20 years old, you think you’re bulletproof, so it’s not going to bother you anyway” and “a lot of the young people felt that way at the time.”

He said he was all over the Atlantic ... near Cuba, in the northern Atlantic, in the Arctic Ocean in the Mediterranean. “I was on a fast-attack submarine for approximately three years and during that time we probably spent nearly three-quarters of the time out at sea always submerged.”

The longest patrol submerged without him seeing the sun was 63 days.

“The one nice thing about a submarine when you’re underwater, it’s very smooth. A nice smooth comfortable ride” and the nuclear subs had “nice air conditioning comfort.”

The provisions they carried on board determined how long they were out at sea. They made their own water and the “things the guys miss the most, when you’re out at sea” is when they would run out of fresh vegetables and milk days later, plus they couldn’t get mail.

He said they were always busy and had a disciplined routine. Moore was on the USS Seawolf, which was the second nuclear submarine built, and on the USS Skipjack.

Moore added that there is a camaraderie among submarines sailors that doesn’t exist among others, “a brotherhood.” Last year, Moore attended an international submarine conference in Italy and met the “guys that were our adversaries during the Cold War and just like us, they were doing their job, doing what they had to do.”

The Navy's Most Vital And Secretive Submarine Base Is In... Idaho?!?

An unusual article submitted to the newsletter by Charleston Base member Bill Roberts. Read the entire piecehere.

Submarines...Secrets...And Spies

An hour long video from Nova/Discovery submitted to the newsletter by Charleston Base member Jimmy Kimbrell. Watch the video on You Tubehere.

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